Explore the University of Illinois Campus in Champaign-Urbana
From gardens to museums to best kept secrets: 13 all-ages activities to make the most of the University of Illinois campus during the summer months.
The lights are flashing red, there are empty parking spaces, and it’s so quiet you can walk down the middle of the street without worry.
OK, so we’re exaggerating (no one is advocating anyone walking in the streets). But there’s no doubt that this is the quiet season for the University of Illinois campus – not just the heart of Campustown, but all over the University of Illinois campus. And that means it’s a great time for the rest of Champaign-Urbana to visit our state’s flagship university, which just so happens to be in our backyard.
(One warning: there’s a lot of construction on campus every summer, so beware that some areas are a little less accessible than usual. Also: some restaurants and other business adapt summer hours. When it doubt, call.)
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We’re listing 13 things to do on the University of Illinois campus this summer, with a focus on family-friendly activities:
1) Thirteen Thursdays. This great event, which takes place every Thursday afternoon in the summer (between graduation and the beginning of the fall semester) has different themes and activities each week. Try new restaurants, do some shopping, park for free. And ….
2) See a movie on the Quad. Each week, there are FREE movies to be seen on the Quad. Some of these movies are more family-friendly than others. Check our calendar.
3) See a concert on the Quad. We love the summer band programs put on by the University of Illinois on the Quad, a tradition that goes back over 100 years, and is a gorgeous setting for beautiful music. Another reason to go: you might know some of the people in the band, as community members are invited to participate.
4) Go bowling. Yes, bowling. Head to the Illini Union Rec Room for some bowling fun. They also have cosmic bowling in the evenings on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. You can also play pool and video games there. (Wii and XBox, anyone?)
5) Go to a Tea Ceremony. It’s one of those things you’ve been meaning to do: take advantage of the cultural opportunities available at Japan House. Available weekly through June, but note that Japan House is closed in July and most of August. Reservations are recommended.
6) Eat at some new restaurants. We have this older list of 8 places to eat in Campustown; we would add a few to the list, including Pokelab and Cracked for fast casual places – and Naya for a grownup evening out.
7) Take a bike ride. We’ve written before about family-friendly bike paths; while we wouldn’t recommend biking around campus while school is in session, when it’s empty there are few better places to bike than campus. There are ample bike paths and many other areas that are outside of traffic.
8) Go to Krannert Center’s Uncorked. Yes, for the most part – Krannert Center is “closed” over the summer. But it is open every Thursday for the informal happy hour, where sampling wine accompanies live music. All ages are welcome, and it’s totally free. Krannert Center tours are also available in the summer.
9) Go to Krannert Art Museum. The museum remains open in the summer, and is a favorite place to hide away for a few hours – and it’s nice and cool, too. Admission is free, donations accepted.
10) Go see hidden campus gems. Many of the campus gems relate to the library system. Many people don’t realize that our backyard contains one of the largest public library collections in the country, if not the *world*. The University of Illinois Rare Book and Manuscript Library has a small but mighty display area, that is most likely best for older children (upper elementary and older). A recent exhibit highlighted fairy tales and similar folktales from around the world. Another hidden gem is the Sousa Archives.
11) Take a Campus tour – either self-guided, or take an official one. Have high school kids who are starting to think about their college search? Or perhaps some who are visiting from out of town? Sign up for an official campus tour. Prospective Freshman Visits are for high school students who are interested in Illinois and haven’t been admitted yet, but family members can tag along (we did this with an older cousin not too long ago). This is the basic campus overview and tour; register online. Available almost daily (weekdays only) in the summer. Don’t have a reason to jump on the official prospective student tour but want to learn more about campus? Self-guided tours are a great option, with help from Undergraduate admissions.
12) Go shopping. We love going to the Illini Union Bookstore for its great selection of Illini gear and quirky gifts (and let’s face it, my kids think they have the same taste as college kids). We also enjoy boutiques such as Apricot Lane (Champaign) and Fira (Urbana), more for the grownups.
13) Visit the Illini Welcome Center at the Alice Campbell Alumni Center. See this brand new interactive, multimedia exhibit about the history of the University – and learn a bit about the history of Champaign-Urbana as well. There’s videos to watch and ways you can contribute to the exhibit, too. We plan a full article on this later this summer. FREE and open to the public during open hours.
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